Tag Archives: the mushroom garden

New Products from The Mushroom Garden

As I live in deepest North Wales it’s not often I get invited to new product launches and the like, but this week was an exception. This week I’d received an invite to what my teen dubbed a “wild mushroom party”. Yes, it conjures all kinds of images but off I went on a wet and windy evening to Beddgelert, home of The Mushroom Garden, one of Wales’s, if not the UK’s foremost wild mushroom producers. I also dragged along the other half and a friend staying with me from London. They are both food fans so really needed no dragging!

Nantmor mushrooms grow and sell fresh cultivated shiitake and oyster mushrooms and a variety of other foraged seasonal wild mushrooms. If you are not lucky enough to live close by, they also sell a variety of dried mushrooms and antipasto via their online shop.

I’m sure you regular readers out there will already be familiar with The Mushroom Garden. I have blogged about them before, I use their produce a lot and a little while back we even joined forces to offer a ‘grow-your-own’ block as a prize. I don’t need to say then that I was very excited about spending an evening with them trying out their new range of products.

This year The Mushroom Garden have certainly branched out. The evenings tasting menu offered guests the opportunity to try mushroom caviar, shiitake beer (made by A small micro brewery run by Rob Linford), antipasto and Umami powder. I remember a couple of years ago when Laura Santini brought out her Taste No.5 (Umami paste) it was all the rage, but many people found they were intolerant to some of the ingredients, well this is a more natural, concentrated, flavoursome, versatile alternative, made in collaboration with Halen Mon salt.

We tasted everything from mushroom caviar canapes (great combination of flavours, herbs and fab as a taster on oatcake), mushroom ravioli (light, delicately flavoured), ballotine of chicken wrapped in parma ham and stuffed with the mushroom caviar (beautifully tender chicken, the mushrooms worked very well as a stuffing), beef, shiitake and purple moose pie (lovely puffy pastry, and great robust flavour from the Purple Moose) and finally Umami chocolate. The powders versatility was amply demonstrated by Welsh specialists Cariad chocolates, who added Umami powder to dark chocolate to produce a sweet, salty stunningly decorated mouthful. It ticked every box for me!

Ballotine of chicken

Beef, shiitake and Purple Moose pie

I wasn’t convinced by the mushroom beer, but then I’m not really an ale fan. The other half liked it. He could taste the slight hint of mushroom, just a note in the background and not overpowering, but at 5.1% he couldn’t have as much as he would have liked as he was driver on duty!
My friend was similarly impressed with all the produce and has ordered a job lot of antipasto to take back to India with her at the end of the month!

To contact Rob Linford’s micro-brewery email Rolant.tomos@menterabusnes.co.uk

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*WIN* a gourmet Nantmor mushroom selection & grow your own shiitake block

Tucked away deep in the heart of Snowdonia, just a couple of miles outside Beddgelert in the Aberglaslyn woods is Nantmor; a sleepy village that is home to The Mushroom Garden, a wonderful, innovative company, that cultivates and sells Welsh grown exotic mushrooms. I’ve been meaning to go visit the owners Cynan and June for about two years now and yesterday I finally got round to it!

Just on the edge of the village you might just see their specially designed, temperature controlled units as you drive past, but you would never know just by looking what wonderful secrets lie hidden within. The green unprepossessing lock-ups contain lots of specially prepared fruiting blocks. They start their growing cycle in the “summer” container where the air is warm and humid. Once they begin to produce small popcorn like swellings (the beginnings of the mushroom fruiting bodies) they move into the “Autumn” container which is kept damp and cool and allows the mushrooms to grow in a ‘natural’ temperature. Within a couple of weeks the mushrooms are ready to harvest.

Cynan started The mushroom Garden in 2004 after taking part of a project which aimed to diversify agriculture in North Wales by looking at alternative crop options. The project flourished and the company has since won awards, including a bronze medal at the True Taste of Wales awards in 2011 and The National Trust Fine Farm Product Award in 2009 and fans UK wide. They are permanently on the menu at Castell Deudraeth (the Portmeirion restaurant) and have also been used by Peter Jackson at Maes y Neuadd and Aled Williams at Cennin.

Cynan has himself gained the moniker “the mushroom man” and is often used by the media as a fungi expert.

picure courtesy of The Mushroom Garden

Picture used with permission of The Mushroom Garden

I use these mushrooms all the time, whether its part of a supper club dish, a formal dinner or in my cooking at home. They are fantastic in a risotto where their earthy flavour is predominant, or added as a subtle undertone to a casserole. Last year they formed part of my Conwy Feast dish; slow cooked Venison with wild mushrooms, herbs and local dry cure bacon. It was a winner.

As a special treat, The Mushroom Garden and I have teamed up to offer one lucky reader the chance to win three tubs of  dried gourmet mushrooms, plus their very own mushroom growing block (complete with instructions).

To win just follow the instructions below.

Competition details

You can enter by any of the following methods…but only do it once per method!! If you enter using all four, you have a higher chance of winning. Good luck!

This competition is now closed. The lucky winner was Olivia Bier from Devon. Well done Olivia!!

TERMS & CONDITIONS
The winner will be randomly chosen by the Random website
The competition is only open to residents of the UK & Eire
If the winner hasn’t replied within two days to the organiser’s email, a new winner will be randomly drawn.

If you are not lucky enough to win this time and don’t live close enough to visit any of the produce markets where they are sold, The Mushroom Garden are now in the process of setting up an online shop which you can reach by clicking here.

Good luck!!

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Conwy Feast & Blinc in pictures: just a few of my favourite things

I think you will see a few posts popping up here over the coming week about the fantastic Conwy Feast. There was so much to see, hear and taste that it was a weekend that fed all the senses. With both Conwy Feast and Blinc (Wales’s first digital arts festival) running concurrently its no surprise that the usually sleepy, walled medieval town of Conwy saw around 25,000 people visit over the weekend. Even the sun shone for us!

And what a weekend it was!.Since it began in 2003 the Conwy Feast has rapidly grown into the second largest food festival in Wales. It attracts a wide array of foodies from all over the country and its patron Bryn Williams of Odettes in London returns to demonstrate year after year. Other regular visitors include the two Sian Lloyd’s (from BBC and ITV), chefs Aled Williams (of Cennin in Beaumaris) and Hywel Jones (Michelin starred chef from Lucknam Park) who like Bryn have flown the flag for Wales as part of the Great British Menu and Bryan Webb, chef and patron of Tyddyn Llan Michelin starred restaurant in Llandrillo near Corwen. This year also saw Morfudd Richards attend for my ticket only supper club event, where Jimmy Williams from Signatures restaurant and I cooked a three course tasting menu with wine. More on this in my next post.

For now though I want to share some of the sights and images that summed up the weekend for me. From the huge array of fantastic Welsh produce just waiting to be tasted, the great array of local musical talent that played across two stages and culminating in the amazing Blinc projections on Conwy Castle on Saturday night. What more can I say…we had a brilliant time.

Conwy mussel boats in the harbour

my little jam stall in Fresh: the new producers tent

Vegan cupcakes from Aderyn Melys...taste totally divine and look beautiful as well

yummy truffles on my next door neighbours stall

Pretty patterns on the handmade butter, churned on site from the Victorian Farm Food Co. in Shropshire

Gemma looking pleased at punch to see the labels she designed for me on the jars

Welsh produce from around the festival, old favourites and new discoveries

Pen-y-Lan sausages…very very moorish

The outdoor cafe with its ’30 mile menu’. Three courses made with exclusively local produce.

Apples and honey at the Anglesey Apple Company…they do the most fab fresh pressed apple juice

Cynan selling his local shiitake and oyster mushrooms from The Mushroom Garden…now regularly bought by Michelin star restaurants. I used his mushrooms in my supper club menu, they are the best.

Beautiful bread from Scilicorns bakery in Llanrwst….their polish bread is my favourite.

everything you always wanted to know about apples from Ian Sturrock grower of rare, organic, Welsh fruit trees and discoverer of the Bardsey Island Apple (which led to a resurgence in interest in rare breeds). I have two of his trees in my garden.

A bar full of Welsh draught beer

Charcuterie from Trealy Farm….Love by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall I can see why; I loved their sweet chorizo and venison chorizo so I just had to buy a selection while I had the chance.

Fantastic shutters in Elizabethan town house Plas Mawr, one of the fantastic locations for some of the Blinc digital installations.

And the grand finale….

Blinc: projections on Conwy Castle

Blinc projections on Conwy Castle

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Anglesey Oyster festival

Celtic spirit liqueurs...Black Mountain is amazing!

Local food festivals here in North Wales do bizarrely seem to happen during he Autumn months when the weather is at its most unpredictable. The first day of the 13th Anglesey Oyster festival coincided with the Ogwen produce market (where I was cooking and selling my jams and chutney). It was a wet miserable day and I wondered if it was as slow over there as it was for us in Bethesda. It didn’t look good for Sunday and I didn’t much feel like a wet trip out, but as the new day dawned, the rain miraculously disappeared. Thankfully it stayed away for most of the day but by heck was it windy!

The Anglesey Oyster festival started as a small yearly social event where island residents gathered to eat lots of oysters, drink lots of bubbly and be entertained by the best of local bands and musicians. Over the past few years though it has become much more of a general local food festival, with less emphasis on the seafood element. This year even more so since oyster stocks have become so depleted. A well documented virus has hit the oyster beds hard (which might explain why the prices were so high!….£7 for one oyster and a glass of bubbly, is it just me or is that just too expensive?)

So I managed to get myself together and popped over for a well needed day of rest and relaxation. Unfortunately with a couple of reluctant kids in tow and my camera running out of battery on arrival, it wasn’t quite the chilled afternoon I’d hoped for. But hey, I was out! I know, I could have left them behind but I knew they’d enjoy it when they got there and having a family day was rather nice. I also wanted to meet up with some of the producers with whom I do regular business to chat about the forthcoming Conwy Feast.

It’s a small festival. More of a glorified two-day produce market really, but worth a visit if you are visiting Anglesey or happen to live in the area. I think it’s just as good for kids to a point; prepare to be fleeced and probably a few quid lighter by the time you leave and don’t expect to linger so you can watch demo’s. All I heard for the first half an hour was

“Mum, can I have this…mum can we get this apple juice, you know I love it…mum I really neeeeed these peppermint creams”

and by the time I’d stated that was IT, nothing else. They became quickly bored and wanted to go to the park. I didn’t get to watch any of the food demos because of their boredom. I should have come alone!

The other problem with food festivals is the cost. They are not for those without disposable income unfortunately. It would be nice to encourage more people to enjoy local produce, but sadly prices seem to be prohibitive. It is the same at Conwy, but at least there are lots of tasting opportunities and plenty of entertainment for the £10 weekend ticket price (£7 Saturday and £6 Sunday if you just come for the day).

I continued to amble slowly, trying and acquiring as I went along. I knew most people there and am very grateful to Cynan at the Mushroom Garden for the bag of wild mushrooms (to try out in my menu for next weeks demo), Ari for the bowl of olives “just to nibble as I walk round” and Carol at Condessa for the free sample of Black Mountain, a delicious heavenly apple and blackcurrant infused brandy. I wasn’t however going to pay £7 for bubbly and one solitary oyster.

The Conwy Feast in contrast is very much a family friendly event. It is now the second largest food festival in Wales and attracts the likes of Michelin star chefs Brain Webb and Hywel Jones plus Bryn Williams and Aled Williams who have flown the flag for Wales on the GReat British Menu along with Hywel. There are kids cookery classes, various events across the town on several stages, demos, live music across three stages and this year the festival coincides with Blinc the first Welsh digital Arts Festival. It really is all going on in Conwy next weekend and I am as excited as a five-year old in a sweet shop, at being asked to cook there! Lets just hope the rain gives us a break.

 

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